Saturday, September 29, 2018
With Halloween only a month away, I thought I'd start a series of blogs representing the spirit of the holiday.
According to Chinese legend, hungry and restless ghosts roam the world to visit their living descendants.
Traditional Chinese belief has the seventh month of the lunar year reserved for the Hungry Ghost festival (Yu Lan). For 2018, the festival started on August 25th. Next year it starts on August 15, 2019. This is a boisterous celebration of feasts and music. According to Chinese folklore, the ghosts who wander the physical world are ravenous and envious after dying without descendants or because they are not honored by relatives who are still alive.
Because the hungry spirits need to be appeased, prayers and incense are offered to deceased relatives. Fake currency, known as hell money, along with paper copies of material wealth are burned. The ghosts then use them when they return to the underworld.
Neighborhoods hold nightly shows of Chinese operas and pop concerts. The front row of seats remain empty because they are reserved for the ghosts. These shows are accompanied by extravagant feasts. On the 15th day of the lunar month, families offer cooked food to the ghosts with the hope that the spirits will help them find good jobs, get good grades, or even win the lottery.
Tradition holds that there are 14 things you should not do during the Hungry Ghost Festival month:
1) Don't stay out late at night, spirits might follow you home
2) Don't stab your chopsticks on your bowl of rice, it resembles the joss sticks offerings to the dead
3) Don't take photos at night, they might capture things you don't want to see
4) Don't celebrate your birthday at night
5) Don't open an umbrella, especially a red one, in the house
6) Avoid working late during this month
7) Don't cover your forehead
8) Don't play games that can attract spirits such as Ouija Board
9) Don't wait at a bus stop after midnight
10) Don't use black or a dark color nail polish, the spirits might think you are one of them
11) Don't enter a cemetery or abandoned house
12) Don't spit or blow your nose in public or at a tree/plant
13) Don't lean against the wall, spirits like to stick on walls because they're cooler
14) Don't turn your head around if someone pats you on the shoulder
Next week in my spirit of the holiday series, I'll be posting a blog about the 5 Most Haunted Roads In The World.
Saturday, September 22, 2018
I read an article about scientists who work on location rather than in a lab…the ones whose labs are out there, in dangerous places and situations where most of us would never go.
So, in no particular order, here are nine of these dangerous scientific work locations.
When you think of geologists your first thought is usually the study of rocks and various landforms, something safe and basically stable. But for the branch of this particular science known as volcanology, things are definitely less stable and a certainly a little hotter. Having been to Mt. St. Helens, Washington, not long after the explosive eruption and viewing the devastation first hand, I'm very familiar with the story of David Johnston, the thirty-year-old volcanologist who was on duty at the time and was one of the fifty-seven people who died in the eruption. Volcanologists study the intense heat and chaos inside active volcanoes, and recently a team of three researchers descended inside the Marum Volcano on Ambrym Island off the coast of Australia to study lava flows inside. Wearing a heat-resistant suit, one of them descended 1200 feet into the volcano’s crater to capture video footage of the lava's movement. Normally, scientists use robotic cameras mounted to small helicopters to do this extremely dangerous work.
2) Tornado Country
The movie Twister gave us a good look at what storm chasers do, and those who live in the part of the U.S. referred to as Tornado Alley see the results of their work on the news when the storm conditions are present that produce tornadoes. Collecting data on storms is a tough process. Getting close to a tornado is risky on a good day, and self-proclaimed storm chasers run that risk all the time. Even with such advanced technology as Doppler radar giving us the overall picture of a severe storm, some scientists claim there is some data that can only be gathered at ground level. One of the most noted tornado researchers, Tim Samaras, routinely drove in front of tornadoes to place cameras and pressure sensors to record the velocities of objects swept up by the storm. Unfortunately, in 2013 Samaras, his son, and another storm chaser died in an Oklahoma tornado.
3) Biosafety Level 4 Labs
Laboratories that deal with germs and diseases that can be dangerous or fatal to humans are given a biosafety rating from one to four. Facilities that deal with Level four are where the really bad stuff happens. One of the most notable is the integrated research facility located at Fort Detrick, Maryland. The laboratory is housed in a nondescript three-story office building—an airtight, pressurized environment restricted to only thirty researchers. The germs they work with include epidemic diseases like Ebola. The facility has airlocks that separate it from the outside world and anything that leads outside the building, such as light fixtures or electrical outlets, is sealed in epoxy to prevent even a single germ from escaping. Scientists are given a seven-minute showering with virus-killing chemicals before they leave.
4) Underwater Caves
The ocean is a massive mystery to humanity, covering the majority of the Earth’s surface. Even though it's part of our planet, we seem to know more about outer space than we do the depths of our oceans. One of the most interesting areas under the ocean's surface are what are known as blue holes, underwater caves that can reach as deep as six hundred feet below sea level. These caves have difficult topography. They vary in size from massive, sprawling caverns to holes barely big enough to admit a human. Diving there can be very dangerous with unpredictable currents. Despite the dangers, scientific rewards are huge with both biological and archaeological finds waiting to be discovered.
5) Tree Canopies
Forest ecosystems are made up of distinct layers, each with its own climate and variety of plants and animals. It's a simple task to study the layers nearest the ground, but botanists have lots of questions about what's happening up above. And that's where canopy research comes in. Scientists at Humboldt State University climb to the top of trees that can exceed 350 feet in height, anchoring their bodies to the trunk. From that risky perch they can observe the canopy ecosystem…as long as they don't lose their balance. At the top of the trees, researchers have discovered a whole ecosystem of moss, lichens, and even whole new trees and bushes growing from dead stumps.
6) Amundsen-Scott Station
Originally built by the United States government in 1956, the Amundsen-Scott Station sits squarely on the south pole. With temperatures ranging from minus 13.6 degrees Celsius (minus 56.48 Fahrenheit) on a nice day to minus 82.8 degrees Celsius (minus 181.04 Fahrenheit) when winter is in high gear, it's one of the most inhospitable regions on the planet. Even though blizzards and intense winds are common, astronomers spend months at the station because the six months of total darkness during winter makes Amundsen-Scott a perfect place to observe the night sky. Other researchers study the movements of the Antarctic ice sheet—the station itself moves about thirty-three feet a year as the ice drifts.
Operated by the National Oceanic and Aeronautic Administration, this deep-sea science station comes with a little twist. The human body is only capable of staying underwater for a short period at a time because decompression sickness (commonly referred to as the bends) can cause incredible damage when gas bubbles form and disrupt tissue. Some scientists have long-term research projects that need to happen in deep water, so they do it at the Aquarius Lab. This facility rests on the sea floor outside of Key Largo, Florida at a depth of fifty feet. Researchers spend up to ten days underwater at a time, studying the nearby coral reefs.
8) Inside Hurricanes
Here’s another meteorological condition where some scientists like to get a little too close. This one has occupied the news coverage for the last week. The National Oceanic and Aeronautic Administration employs a number of flight meteorologists who take airplanes into the eyes of hurricanes to gather data on the storm's strength and direction. They use two planes—one is a Gulfstream G-4 that has the easy job of circling the storm's funnel, the second is a smaller propeller plane that actually penetrates the fast-moving wind to fly right to the eye of the storm. In addition to using Doppler radar on the plane's tail, they also release a device called a dropsonde that transmits pressure and humidity data.
9) Outer Space
And finally…there is literally no environment as hostile to the human body as the vacuum of space. Long-term weightlessness has negative effects on muscle tone, bone density and the immune system. Exposure to radiation in low-earth orbit comes at levels ten times higher than the normal dose on the Earth's surface. And there's also the fact that outer space doesn't have any of that oxygen stuff our bodies need to function. Experimentation in outer space has led to a number of fascinating discoveries in fields as diverse as astronomy and cancer medicine.
And there you have a sampling of dangerous locations some scientists refer to as their lab (minus those white lab coats, of course).
Saturday, September 15, 2018
Skull and Bones
Secret Societies…Conspiracy Theories…these mysterious entities have been with us ever since mankind formed civilizations.
Secret Societies abound across the face of the planet, touching every race, religion, creed and color of humanity. Some are associated with religion and some with politics. In fact, you can find secret societies embedded in every facet of society. Although there have been many books written and movies produced about conspiracy theories and secret societies, the publication of Dan Brown's book THE DA VINCI CODE and release of the hit movie focused a world wide spotlight on a specific set of conspiracy theories and secret societies galloping across the pages of history.
One such Secret Society is the Freemasons, an organization constantly in a swirl of public attention from books and even an onslaught of television documentaries. They are, perhaps, the most recognized of secret societies with the greatest number of conspiracy theories attached to them due in great part to their longevity, an organization dating back to biblical times.
However, other secret societies remain far more elusive from public scrutiny. I recently came across a list of four secret societies (among what is probably thousands) that have not routinely been thrust into public awareness.
The Bohemian Club:
Founded in San Francisco in 1872, the Bohemian Club holds an annual retreat in the redwood forest of northern California at Bohemian Grove. At this location, they conduct a secret ceremony in front of a giant owl statue. Only the most powerful men are invited to attend. Women are prohibited from being members, a situation upheld by the California courts. Famous members include Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Ordo Templi Orientis:
Founded in the early 20th century by an Austrian chemist. One of its known members is famed British occultist Aleister Crowley (1875-1947). He revamped the masonic group to focus on a religion he created called Thelema. They believe that mankind's existence is a product of the relationship between the space-time continuum and the principle of life and wisdom. Prospective members must go through a series of secret rituals and initiations before being granted membership.
Rosicrucianism is a spiritual and cultural movement which arose in Europe in the early 17th century. They have one central belief, that all their members share the same secret wisdom. Their beliefs combine occultism with aspects of popular religion. They're named for their symbol of a rose on a cross.
Skull & Bones:
Founded at Yale university in 1832, it's probably the most famous of the secret societies due in part to such high profile members as three generations of the Bush family, including two presidents—George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Skull & Bones have allegedly been a part of many monumental historical events despite the fact that only fifteen Yale students are chosen each year to become members. It's rumored that they took part in the creation of the nuclear bomb. There's also a persistent belief that in 1918, nine years after Geronimo's death, a group of Skull & Bones members dug up his grave and stole his skull, a few miscellaneous bones, and some relics that were also buried with him. The grave raiding party allegedly included Prescott Bush, father and grandfather to the two Bush presidents. Twenty descendants of Geronimo filed a lawsuit against Skull & Bones, Yale University, and the U.S. Government to have the remains returned to them.
There are certainly many more secret organizations functioning and flourishing world-wide in today's society other than these four.
Saturday, September 8, 2018
I came across this news story about an incident that happened in County Sligo, Ireland, three years ago in September 2015 and decided to share it on my blog.
A storm knocked down a 215 year old tree in northwestern Ireland and archeologists discovered a human skeleton tangled in its roots. The skeleton of a young man between the ages of 17 and 20 was determined to be approximately 1000 years old. Numerous injuries were found on his ribs and hand indicating he "suffered a violent death."
The lower leg bones remained in the grave, but the upper part of the body had become tangled in the tree roots, thus being exposed when the tree blew over in a storm. Radiocarbon dating indicated the remains go back to early medieval times, between 1030 and 1200AD. It was assumed that he came from a local Gaelic family and had been killed in a local conflict/battle or personal dispute rather than an incident connected to the Anglo-Norman invasion which occurred in 1169.
The original position of the skeleton indicated that he had received a formal Christian burial, but nothing else was found with the remains. The skeleton is still being studied to see what other information it will yield. It was the only skeleton found in the excavation.
Saturday, September 1, 2018
The Labor Day holiday is celebrated on the first Monday in September. This is the same day that Canada celebrates their Labor Day holiday. This year, that date is September 3, 2018.
The history of Labor Day in the U.S. goes back to the labor movement of the late 1800s and became an official federal holiday in 1894, celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events. Prior to 1894, workers who wanted to participate in Labor Day parades would forfeit a day's pay.
Over the ensuing decades, Labor has come to symbolize something else, too. In defiance of the Summer Solstice and Autumnal Equinox signaling the beginning and ending of the summer, Labor Day has become the unofficial end of the summer season that unofficially started on Memorial Day weekend (the fourth Monday in May in the U.S.).
What led up to the creation of a holiday specifically designated to honor and celebrate the workers and their accomplishments? The seeds were planted in the 1880s at the height of America's Industrial Revolution when the average American worked 12 hour days/7 days a week in order to manage a basic living. Although some states had restrictions, these workers included children as young as 5 years old who labored in the mills, factories and mines earning a fraction of the money paid to the adults in the same workplace. Workers of all ages were subjected to extremely unsafe working conditions in addition to insufficient access to fresh air and sanitary facilities.
Labor Unions had first appeared in the late 1700s. As America changed from an agrarian society into an industrial one, these labor unions became more vocal and began to organize rallies and strikes in protest of poor working conditions and low wages. Many of these events turned violent. One prominent such incident was the Haymarket Riot of 1886 where several Chicago policemen and workers were killed. Other rallies were of a more positive nature such as September 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers took unpaid time off from their jobs and held the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history when they marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City.
It was another 12 years before Congress legalized the holiday. This was primarily brought about on May 11, 1894, when employees at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives. Then on June 26, the American Railroad Union called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars thus crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the government sent troops to Chicago. The resulting riots were responsible in the deaths of more than a dozen workers. As a result, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday in all states, the District of Columbia and the territories (many of which later became states).
And now, more than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day still hasn't been identified.
So, for everyone enjoying this 3 day holiday weekend, now you know why you have that additional day. And why the banks are closed and you don't have any mail delivery. :)